Pentagon Pushes for Weaker Standards on Chemicals Contaminating Drinking Water – The New York Times

Pentagon Pushes for Weaker Standards on Chemicals Contaminating Drinking Water – The New York Times

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WASHINGTON — Facing billions of dollars in cleanup costs, the Pentagon is pushing the Trump administration to adopt a weaker standard for groundwater pollution caused by chemicals that have commonly been used at military bases and that contaminate drinking water consumed by millions of Americans.The Pentagon’s position pits it against the Environmental Protection Agency, which is seeking White House signoff for standards that would most likely require expensive cleanup programs at scores of military bases, as well as at NASA launch sites, airports and some manufacturing facilities.Despite its deregulatory record under President Trump, the E.P.A. has been seeking to stick with a tougher standard for the presence of the chemicals in question in the face of the pressure from the military to adopt a far looser framework.How the administration resolves the fight has potentially enormous consequences for how the United States is going to confront what a top official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called “one of the most seminal public health challenges” of the coming decades.The problem is not limited to military bases.
An estimated five million to 10 million people in the country may be drinking water laced with high levels of the chemicals, ....

In some instances, the Defense Department is providing temporary replacement water supplies.The military and many airports nationwide have relied on PFAS-based firefighting spray because it can more quickly put out liquid fuel fires and it works when mixed with both fresh water and seawater.The Defense Department has been moving in recent years to phase out the use of the most worrisome version of these chemicals and replace them with a formulation that does not break down in the environment as easily or build up as much in the bloodstream if it ends up in drinking water.
But this replacement chemical is also generating health concerns.The E.P.A. — after intense criticism from communities facing contaminated water, as well as from both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill — is moving toward creating two new PFAS standards to address the problem nationwide.The first would establish guidelines for when cleanups will be required at federally controlled sites to try to prevent that contamination from reaching drinking water supplies.The second would set a legally binding, maximum allowable drinking water level for PFOS and PFOA, two of the most common forms of PFAS. Separately, the E.P.A. is preparing to designate these chemicals hazardous substances, meaning ....

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